The Mountain Meadows massacre involved a mass slaughter of the Fancher-Baker emigrant wagon train at Mountain Meadows in the Utah Territory by the local Mormon militia in September 1857. It began as an attack, quickly turned into a siege, and eventually culminated on September 11, 1857, in the execution of the unarmed emigrants after their surrender. All of the party were killed, except for a few children under 8 years old. Some infants were killed while in their mothers arms.After the massacre, the corpses of the victims were left decomposing for two years on the open plain , their children were distributed to local Mormon families, and many of their possessions auctioned off at the LDS Cedar City tithing office.
The Arkansas emigrants were traveling to California shortly before the Utah War started. Mormons throughout the Utah Territory had been mustered to fight the United States Army, which they believed was intending to destroy them as a people.
The emigrants stopped to rest and regroup their approximately 800 head of cattle at Mountain Meadows, a valley within the Iron County Military District of the Nauvoo Legion (the popular designation for the Mormon militia of the Utah Territory).
Initially intending to orchestrate an Indian massacre,Isaac C. Haight and John D. Lee, conspired to lead militiamen disguised as Native Americans along with a contingent of Paiute tribesmen in an attack. The emigrants fought back and a siege ensued. When the Mormons discovered that they had been identified as the attacking force by the emigrants, Col. William H. Dame, head of the Iron County Brigade of the Utah militia, ordered their annihilation.Intending to leave no witnesses of Mormon complicity in the siege and also intending to prevent reprisals that would complicate the Utah War, militiamen induced the emigrants to surrender and give up their weapons. After escorting the emigrants out of their hasty fortification, the militiamen and their tribesmen auxiliaries executed approximately 120 men, women and children.Seventeen younger children were spared.
Investigations, interrupted by the U.S. Civil War, resulted in nine indictments in 1874. Only John D. Lee was tried, and after two trials, he was convicted. On March 23, 1877 a firing squad executed Lee at the massacre site.